It's Still The Same Truck, But Nissan Is Selling Frontiers Like It's 2006

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
its still the same truck but nissan is selling frontiers like it s 2006

The recent introduction of a thoroughly re-engineered Toyota Tacoma is propelling sales of the segment’s top seller to all-time highs. After an elongated hiatus, there are new options from General Motors, and they’re selling more frequently than GM anticipated. Just last month, Honda began selling an all new, second-generation Ridgeline, a pickup at the opposite end of the spectrum from the rough and tumble Frontier. That Ridgeline, we told you yesterday, is selling like it’s 2008.

Moreover, demand for small/midsize pickup trucks is roughly 30-percent smaller than it was a decade ago.

At Nissan, there are plenty of factors, internal and external, working against the Frontier. The current-generation pickup is more than a decade old. Yet Nissan USA is on track to sell more Frontiers in 2016 than at any point since the current truck debuted on the Titan’s F-Alpha platform in January 2004 at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.


As you would expect, Nissan credits its own midsize truck for the company’s 2016 midsize truck sales improvements. Asked by TTAC yesterday, “What’s driving the sales?”, Nissan’s senior manager of product communications, Dan Passe, noted the Frontier’s value quotient and the degree to which Nissan believes the truck is competitive in the marketplace.

But Passe also mentioned the changing circumstances. No longer is the Frontier essentially battling the Toyota Tacoma one-on-one as it was for much of 2013 and 2014. “Attention has been brought upon it by the new and revised entrants in the segment,” Passe told TTAC.

Fast food restaurants set up shop across the street from other fast food restaurants, not on the outskirts of town where they have the market to themselves, because the market is too small there. Car dealerships traditionally prefer to be among car dealerships — that’s where the customers are.

For the Nissan Frontier, a revamped Toyota Tacoma, a new Chevrolet Colorado, a new GMC Canyon, and perhaps even a new Honda Ridgeline, apparently does more good than harm. Those trucks ignite interest in the midsize pickup truck category that the old Frontier cannot ignite on its own. In fact, the newer trucks ignite enough interest to not only produce Frontier-besting volume at Toyota and General Motors, but also enough interest to rub off on the senior citizen in their ranks.


The Frontier is far from the most modern piece of equipment now, but this is the truck about which Car And Driver said, “The Frontier was remarkably frisky,” and, “During a run down a curvy mountain road, the Frontier was composed, communicative, and even a little fun.”

Granted, this was in a June 2005 comparison test of midsize pickups won by Honda Ridgeline, a test in which the Frontier finished second, but it clearly shows the current Frontier wasn’t always an also-ran.

But also-ran is what it’s become. The very same publication called the Frontier the ‘I’m Still Here!’ Truck last October. Auto writers prone to forgetting about the Nissan Frontier’s existence aren’t representative of the general midsize truck-buying public: Frontier volume rose to an eight-year high in 2014, dipped 15 percent in the face of a competitive onslaught last year, and is now on pace for its best year since 2001.

The Nissan Frontier won’t match the calendar year 2000’s 108,738-unit record pace this year, and exceeding the 89,434-unit mark from 2001 appears just as unlikely. But Nissan is on track to sell more than 80,000 Frontiers in 2016, making this year potentially the best year in the history of the current model, a pickup which debuted when Steph Curry was still in high school, when Subaru was still selling the Baja, when Donald Trump was only just beginning to air The Apprentice.


Times have changed, not only for Donald Trump, but for the Nissan pickup truck lineup. Nissan is benefiting from improved midsize pickup truck demand, to be sure, but the Frontier is also reaping the rewards of being the lone light-duty truck in Nissan’s showrooms.

“The half-ton Titan will not be on sale until early fall, and all previous-generation models have been out of production for several months,” says Nissan’s Dan Passe. “As a consequence, dealerships are selling a good amount of Frontiers.”

A good amount, indeed. With few deeply discounted Titans in Nissan showrooms to challenge the Frontier, first-half Frontier volume jumped 29 percent to 45,011 units, equal to 21 percent market share in the small/midsize category. That’s up two points from last year as year-over-year Frontier growth exceeds that of any rival.

Of course, low prices help, too. The MSRP of a basic crew cab, four-wheel-drive, V6-engined Nissan Frontier is $28,150, $4,880 less than the price of an equal Toyota Tacoma.

[Image Source/Image: Nissan]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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2 of 71 comments
  • DenverMike DenverMike on Jul 14, 2016

    If we're really, really quiet, we won't awaken the Australian chapter of SPaM, the Small Pickup Mafia.

  • DownUnder2014 DownUnder2014 on Jul 25, 2016

    I must say, I wouldn't mind a base Crew Cab V6 w/ Manual for 23k or so. That actually sounds like decent value, even if the current-gen D40 Frontier is a bit long in the tooth. The current-gen D23 doesn't come with a V6 of any kind at all in Australia. The old-gen D40s had both a Petrol and Diesel V6 (along with 4-Cylinder Diesels) available here.

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